HIGH ADVENTURE IN THE MT. WASHINGTON VALLEY
Mt. Washington Valley offers a number of outdoor adventure options for those that look for a more extreme thrill. Whether it’s above tree-line sightseeing, snowmobiling on the extensive trail system in the area, ice climbing, or winter weather observing atop Mount Washington, the White Mountains are the perfect place for high adventure.
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Mountaineering & Ice Climbing
Did you know that the White Mountains offer climbing terrain that most closely resembles the experience on Mount Everest? Perhaps that is why so many experienced ice climbers come to Mt. Washington Valley to learn and practice. There are a number of programs geared toward mountaineering in Mt. Washington Valley. The Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School offers a number of programs from beginner to advanced ice climbing along with winter camping programs. The Appalachian Mountain Club offers many workshops throughout the winter, as well as some of their hut and tent facilities in the White Mountains for adventure in the snow-capped White Mountains. SOLO (Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities), the largest school of wilderness and emergency medicine in the world, is housed right in Conway, NH. Combining the theoretical with the experiential, SOLO Wilderness and Emergency Medicine courses teach the skills and knowledge for everything from a safe and successful wilderness rescue operation to an outdoor venture. Those seeking the right apparel and equipment need not venture out of Mt. Washington Valley. There are a number of options to choose from for everything from technical climbing gear to outdoor apparel. Try Ragged Mountain Equipment Company, L.L. Bean, Chuck Roast, Eastern Mountain Sports, Joe Jones Ski & Sport, Stan & Dan‘s, and many more.
For those seeking something a little less rugged, how about a winter sightseeing tour, high above tree line on Mount Washington? For over 100 years, the Mt. Washington Auto Road has been offering summer guided tours up the highest mountain in the Northeast. Now, the Auto Road in partnership with Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, is offering winter sightseeing tours to just above tree-line on Mount Washington aboard a specially prepared 12-passenger van. Taking advantage of the unique “Mattracks” 4-track system, which closely resembles the tracks on a tank, the van can now offer an extremely comfortable ride, with less impact on the snow than a footprint! The tour takes you through wooded sections and up the Mount Washington Auto Road to a point where you can look down into the 5,500 acre Great Gulf Wilderness area and over majestic snow covered peaks in the Northern Presidential range. The round trip sightseeing tours are $40 for adults, and $25 for children 5 and up. The tours depart daily, weather permitting, on a first-come first serve basis, and include trail pass with access to the complete trail network and the tubing hill.
Every winter, Mt. Washington Valley gears up to take its place as one of the U.S. snowbelt’s premier snowmobile vacation destinations. For more than 30 years, New Hampshire residents and visitors have enjoyed the use of more than 6,000 miles of the state’s snowmobile trails, established by more than 100 organized snowmobile clubs. Everyone knows that some of the best snowmobiling terrain is found right in the White Mountains. Locally, one of the main state corridors, Corridor 19, which runs from New Hampshire’s southern border up to Canada, crosses Route 16 right before the heart of North Conway. Snowmobiles may be rented through Profile Powersports just south of Conway Village. Additionally, Bartlett Snowmobile Rental, with access to Bear Notch Trails, offers rentals for those seeking to start in the Northern end of the Valley. Other snowmobile outfitters offering guided tours and rentals include Northern Extremes in North Conway, Alpine Adventures and ‘Lil Man Snowmobile Rentals in Bartlett, and Town & Country in East Conway, with easy access to Evans Notch for fabulous snowmobiling, and Whittier Sports/Canoe King in East Ossippee. All offer maps, expert trail advice and helmets with their rentals.
If you can walk, you can snow shoe, and for that reason, snowshoeing has stormed New England for those who seek winter adventure. There are a number of different snow shoe options in Mt. Washington Valley. For those just starting out, snowshoes can be rented or purchased at many of the area outfitters, including Joe Jones Sports, Ragged Mountain Sports, L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports. Eastern Mountain Sports, The Appalachian Mountain Club, Great Glen Trails, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, and the Mt. Washington Valley X-C Ski and Snowshoe Center all offer programs to teach everyone from beginners to experts to families how to enjoy the sport of snowshoeing. Visit www.skimtwashingtonvalley.org for information on many of these snowshoe centers. A number of the inns in the area have jumped on the bandwagon too. The Snowvillage Inn and The Darby Field Inn both offer their private trail networks to snowshoeing guests. Of course, area outdoor retailers like Chuck Roast, along with those mentioned above, all offer warm apparel to help you enjoy your snowshoeing adventure. All the area x-country ski centers welcome snow shoers too.
Traditionally, late season snow storms blow extra snow into Mount Washington’s famed snow bowl, Tuckerman Ravine, creating ideal spring skiing conditions long after the area’s other ski areas close. And like bees to honey, avid skiers flock to Tuckerman Ravine to test their skills on some of the steepest terrain in the east. To ski Tuckerman Ravine, you must hike, with all your skiing gear the 2.4-mile Ravine Trail, which begins at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. That takes you to the bottom of the ravine and “Lunch Rocks” where spectators sit on the warm rocks in full summer garb taking in the spectacle of those climbing, then skiing, “The Wall”. It was written in a 1967 New Hampshire Profiles magazine that “skiing the hard way, without lifts, gives a man a true appreciation of the sport”. According to The Mountain Ear’s Winter Guide, “actually just being up there and watching people skiing the Ravine the old-fashioned way gives a man (or woman) a true appreciation of the sport!" Whether going as a skier or an observer, the Tuckerman ritual offers a mecca for spring skiing and mountain enjoyment
Spend the night at the Observatory on top of Mount Washington
The Mount Washington Observatory offers overnight educational winter Edu-trips to the summit of Mount Washington for Observatory members. Each trip considers a different main topic such as the glacial geology of Mount Washington, mountain photography, mountain weather, or life and work on top of Mount Washington. These overnight trips include snow tractor transportation to and from the summit, overnight lodging, all meals, instruction and materials. These trips are available only to Observatory members. Participants are required to be in excellent physical condition and able to hike safely in cold temps. Space is limited, and available by reservation only. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to learn about special winter topics in a place like no other – the world atop Mount Washington. Visit www.mountwashington.org or call (603)356-2137 for more information.
For more information on visiting Mt. Washington Valley in winter or summer, call 1-800-DO-SEE-NH (800-367-3364) and request a free Tips and Tours guidebook, or visit www.mtwashingtonvalley.org for complete trip planning resources.